ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan planting a sapling at Banigala on Sunday.—Online
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan planting a sapling at Banigala on Sunday.—Online

• Imran says Pakistan is among the 10 countries most vulnerable to impacts of global warming
• Diplomats from China, Kuwait, Azerbaijan and other countries join campaign by planting saplings

ISLAMABAD: Launching the largest tree plantation campaign with the goal to plant 3.5 million saplings across the country in a single day, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday said it was a long battle but the initiative had been taken to save future generations from the impact of global warming.

“Pakistan is in the list of 10 most vulnerable countries to impacts of global warming,” PM Khan said, adding that the country’s wheat production had fallen over the past two years due to climate change and unprecedented rainfall.

“It is our responsibility to make the country green for future generations,” he said.

The launch coincided with the commemoration of Tiger Force Day, as the prime minister expressed his gratitude particularly to the youth for joining him in the campaign as part of the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP). Under the programme, the government has set a target to plant 10 billion saplings by 2023. The PM had earlier appealed to the people from all walks of life to participate in the campaign in maximum numbers.

Speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad on Sunday, the premier appreciated all those who took part in the drive and said the 3.5 million saplings was just the start as this was an ongoing battle. “This is a long battle, but thankfully we have started the process,” he said, vowing that trees would be planted in “empty spaces” in cities.

Mr Khan said tree plantation was necessary to mitigate the impact of global warming that had direct consequence on public health. Along with plantation, the government was also focusing on cleanliness of rivers. “Planting trees will help in cleaning our climate and lessening pollution,” he remarked.

The PM said the TBTTP had been designed in a manner that forestation would open new avenues for local communities to earn revenue. The overall target was to generate one million jobs in five years, he explained. “Last year despite Covid-19 we were able to create 84,000 jobs and plan to facilitate over 80,000 in the current year only through forestation. This Green Stimulus has been acknowledged globally,” he said.

“As a part of this holistic vision, we have launched the ‘Protected Areas Initiative’ for strengthening of 15 national parks /protected areas, across the country. This conservation will be highly beneficial for biodiversity, for controlling pollution and conserving precious resources,” Mr Khan explained.

International environmental orga­ni­sations while appreciating the mas­s­ive plantation campaign have ask­ed other nations to follow the exa­mple to mitigate the worsening eff­ects of climate change. Chinese Amb­assador in Islamabad Yao Jing posted images on Twitter, planting a tree at the embassy on Sunday to echo the tree plantation drive of PM Khan. In two years, the embassy had planted 500 trees in the compound, under its slogan “Green Embassy, Green Pakistan”.

Officials from the embassies of Kuwait, Yemen and Azerbaijan also joined the prime minister’s campaign by planting saplings.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser planted a sapling in his hometown Swabi.

Six vulnerable districts

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said three districts in Punjab and three in Sindh had been identified as hotspots in that they would become unliveable if immediate action was not taken to plant trees. “A World Bank report says that these hotspots will become uninhabitable by 2050 if we do not plant trees there today. Plantation in these hotspots is necessary for future generations. Together we will transform Pakistan into a clean and green state,” Mr Aslam explained.

On Sunday, he said, one million Tiger Force volunteers responded to the call to plant 3.5m indigenous fruit and non-fruit tree saplings across the country in close support with the climate change ministry’s TBTTP team as well as provincial forest departments.

The SPSM said two million saplings were being planted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1.19m in Punjab, 303,646 in Sindh, 15,000 in Balochistan, 11,500 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 57,000 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2020